April 16, 2013

Contents of this issue:

  • Galesburg dumps cost-cutting superintendent 
  • Diplomas of 18 Highland Park 2012 grads revoked
  • Michigan Radio profiles Education Achievement Authority schools 
  • School aid bill could boost funding for some districts
  • ‘Focus school’ requirements reduced 

Galesburg Dumps Cost-Cutting Superintendent

GALESBURG, Mich. – The Galesburg-Augusta school board voted 5-2 to not extend Superintendent Tim Vagts’ contract in March, according to MLive. After the vote, the two board members who voted to keep Vagts resigned, MLive reports.

According to MLive, Vagts’ tenure at the district was controversial because of his moves to cut costs, including privatizing the district’s bus services.
MLive reports that Vagts also worked to close the Augusta Intermediate School, and also privatized custodial services. Vagts told MLive that closing the school has saved the district $1 million, and that privatizing transportation saves the district $100,000 per year. Without the cuts, he told MLive, the district would have gone into deficit.
Vagts’ contract will expire after June 2014, according to MLive.
SOURCE: MLive, “How did Galesburg-Augusta schools get to this point? Where does the district go from here,” April 14, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “School Support Services Contracting Increases to 61 Percent of Districts" Aug. 13, 2012

Diplomas of 18 Highland Park 2012 Grads Revoked

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. – Donald Weatherspoon, emergency manager for the Highland Park school district, has revoked diplomas awarded in 2012 to 18 students, according to MLive.

MLive reports that the diploma revocation came after a transcript inquiry that led to an audit. Some students didn’t have enough credits, or were given credit for classes that they failed, according to MLive.
“It was nothing the child did,” Weatherspoon told MLive. “The child was misled.”
Weatherspoon, who is also emergency manager for the Muskegon Heights school district, told MLive that no diplomas would be revoked for former Muskegon Heights grads. However, he said the district is planning on offering remedial educational support to students who graduated up to six years ago.
SOURCE: MLive, “Fixing ‘chaos’: Emergency manager offers Muskegon Heights grads online learning, rescinds diplomas in Highland Park,” April 12, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Highland Park Reform May Have to Begin With Finances,” July 13, 2012

Michigan Radio Profiles Education Achievement Authority Schools

DETROIT – Michigan Radio has published the first of a three-part series on the state Educational Achievement Authority. Legislation is being considered to expand the statewide reform district.

Michigan Radio reports that the EAA is trying some unusual tactics for a reform district. The EAA has partnered with charter operators to run schools, as well as implemented student-centered learning, according to Michigan Radio.
However, the schools are in their first year, and results remain to be seen, Michigan Radio reports.
“We think it’s really hopeful, Amber Arellano, director of Education Trust Midwest told Michigan Radio. “And we’re looking forward to seeing what the data say.”
SOURCE: Michigan Radio, “The Education Achievement Authority, Part 1: An introduction to Michigan’s ‘reform district,’” April 12, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “New Education Achievement Authority bill introduced," March 12, 2013

School Aid Bill Could Boost Funding For Some Districts

LANSING, Mich. – Some school districts could see more money next year under a Senate Republican budget plan, though others might see less, according to The Detroit News.

The Senate Appropriations subcommittee voted on Wednesday to increase the state minimum foundation allowance by $100, The News reports. Districts receiving the lowest per-pupil state aid amounts would receive an additional, one-time $35 per-pupil equity payment under the plan, according to The News.
Districts already receiving more than the state minimum would get a $50-per-pupil increase, The News reports.
Districts might see less money because the money used to fund the per-pupil increases came in part from a $132 million cut to money the state paid to offset district employee retirement costs, according to The News. Districts with higher employee retirement costs might see a net loss, The News reports.
SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Michigan schools face funding gains, losses in GOP budget plan,” April 11, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Despite Claims, Michigan School Funding Higher Than a Decade Ago; Way More Than Decades Past,” March 18, 2013

‘Focus School’ Requirements Reduced

LANSING, Mich. – The criteria for determining a “focus” school have changed slightly, and schools labeled as focus schools will no longer have to pay to bus students elsewhere, according to the Oakland Press.

Pontiac Superintendent Brian Dougherty told The Press that he was happy with the change in transportation requirements. Approximately 300 Pontiac students were being transported to other schools after their resident school was identified as a focus or priority school, according to The Press.
“Obviously, if it means we would not have to transport students anymore, the immediate result would be cost savings,” Dougherty told The Press.
“Maybe without that transportation, we would have parents bringing their children back to Pontiac schools,” he said to The Press.
SOURCE: The Oakland Press, “New formula to ease expense of busing kids for ‘Focus’ schools,” April 11, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “In Pontiac, MEA Local Raises $12K For School Supplies While Union Health Insurance Arm Sues District for $7.8 Million,  March 11, 2013